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functions is an impossibility? We should have supposed that the act of sending, at least, might be safely ascribed to the Father, in distinction from the Son; unless perhaps this author in the pleni tude of his subtlety, has discovered a method by which a person may send himself. In spite of attempts to bewilder the plain reader by unmeaning obstructions, it will remain a palpable fact, that John's commission is ascribed to the Father, and to Him alone; and that having originated before our Saviour assumed the legislative function, it is in no respect entitled to be considered as a Christian institute. In addition to which we have only to remark, that to insist upon deriving John's mission from our Lord, is to implicate him in the charge of employing a collusive mode of reasoning. In reproving the unbelief of the Jews, he observes that "he did not bear witness of himself," for had he done so, "his witness had not been true," in other words, not entitled to credit; but he adds, "there is another that beareth witness of me, and I know that which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bore witness to the truth." (John 5:31-33.) But if the person to whose testimony he appeals in proof of his mission, was sent by himself, where is the force of this reasoning? or what difference in point of credibility is there betwixt his bearing witness of himself, and his prompting another to do it for him?
II. The author of the Plea next endeavors to show the identity of the qualifications demanded by the forerunner of our Lord, with those which were demanded by his Apostles after the day of Pentecost. After objecting to the accuracy of my statement on that article, without attempting to point out in what its incorrectness consists, he proceeds to remark, that allowing it to be unexceptionably just, it will prove that the requisitions which were supposed to be different, coalesce into one and the same thing. The reason he adduces is the following: "As both John and the Apostles are described as demanding faith, so that faith is to have the same object, and to be connected with the same facts in relation to that object; only some of these facts John's disciples were to view as approaching; while the faith of those baptized by the Apostles, embraced them as having actually occurred; for the great events respecting the Messiah, as boldly appealed to faith, when only occupying the prophetic page, as they do now they are become interesting details in the evangelical history." (Pl. for Prim. Com. p. 23.)
It will be freely admitted that the Saviour of the world is in every period, and under every economy, the sole object of saving faith; but to infer from hence, that the profession which John demanded was an appendage of the dispensation introduced on the day of Pentecost would equally demonstrate the Levitical ceremo
nies to belong to it, and would thus carry back the Christian dispensation to the time of Moses. The next assertion, "that the belief of the same facts was required in the former instance as in the latter," is palpably absurd, as well as the reason assigned, which is, that they were foretold by the ancient Prophets, and "that prophecy as boldly appealed to faith as the narrative of an Evangelist." Every one must perceive, that if there is any force in this argument, it will prove that whatever was predicted of the Messiah, must have been distinctly understood and firmly embraced by the disciples of the forerunner, as an essential prerequisite to the reception of baptism, since whatever was thus predicted was unquestionably presented as the object of faith; the place of his birth, his vicarious sufferings, his resurrection, the spiritual nature of his kingdom, his rejection by the Jews, and the triumphant progress of the gospel amongst the Gentiles, with an infinite number of other particulars, were attested by the Prophets. But will this author contend that all these circumstances were understood by John's converts, at a time when the immediate disciples of our Lord were intoxicated with the hopes of an earthly kingdom, and totally unapprised of their Master's death? Or will he condescend to inform us on what principle so much more was requisite to constitute a disciple of John, than an Apostle of the Lord ? Had it been a question of duty, instead of an inquiry into matter of fact, no difficulty would have been felt in acknowledging the justice of the rebuke which the Apostles received for their hardness of heart, in not opening their minds more freely to the true interpretation of Scripture; a cloud of carnal prejudices undoubtedly eclipsed a considerable portion of revealed truth, though with the best dispositions much must have remained obscure till the ancient prophecies were fulfilled. Previous to that period, if we listen to the inspired writers, instead of the author of the Plea, neither the Prophets understood their own predictions, nor the Apostles their true interpretation. To apply revelation in its utmost extent, without the smallest allowance for the inevitable involutions of prophecy, as a criterion of the portion of knowledge actually possessed by the successive generations of the faithful is a mode of reasoning peculiar to this writer. We possess in the Apocalypse, a series of prophecies extending to the consummation of all things, a large portion of which is confessedly involved in obscurity; but what opinion should we entertain of the sagacity of him, who at a period subsequent to their accomplishment, should contend that we of this age must necessarily have been apprised of the events which they foretold, solely on the ground of their being the subject of prophecy? Such a reasoner will be the properest person to write a sequel to the Plea for Primitive Com
The author has been betrayed into these absurdities by confounding together two things totally distinct, a sincere belief in the truth of inspiration, with an explicit knowledge of its contents. The Prophets were invested with credentials which entitled them to the profound submission of mankind; but to receive their predictions as the word of God, is one thing, and so to penetrate their Scope and intention as to be in possession of precisely the same facts, and acquainted with the same truths with those who lived to witness their accomplishment, is another. All good men equally possessing the former, had the same spirit of faith; while with respect to the latter, the situation of the hearers of the Prophets under the law, and of the apostolic converts under the gospel, was most dissimilar. It is certain from the eulogiums bestowed upon John, that his attainments in religious knowledge surpassed the highest of those his predecessors; yet we are informed from the same authority, that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. But in what is this superiority so universally ascribed to Christians to be placed, except in an acquaintance with the facts attested after the day of Pentecost, and a knowledge of the mysteries with which they are inseparably allied? These however form the very core and substance of the apostolical testimony, the unshaken profession of which was the indispensable condition of baptism; and among the foremost and most fundamental of these are the vicarious death and resurrection of our Lord, which we are compelled by their own testimony to believe were most remote from the previous expectation and belief of the Apostles. Christian baptism is the " answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3: 21.)
In order to demonstrate the equality of the requisitions of John with those of the Apostles, this writer has attempted to exhibit them in opposite columns. These columns, however, are not very majestic, nor very uniform, including only three passages on one side, and four on the other. Two remarks may be amply sufficient to counteract the effect of a device which is addressed to the eyes rather than to the understanding. The first is, that the explicit testimony which the harbinger bore to the character of our Lord after his baptism, is edduced without the slightest advertence to the distinction of times, as a proof of the manner in which he first announced his commission; but as his knowledge of the person of the Messiah, we learn from his own declaration, was subsequent to that event, his language must necessarily have been modified by that circumstance. The second is, that we have no more reason to suppose that his disciples comprehended the true import of his instructions, or that they interpreted them
aright, than that the immediate disciples of our Lord understood similar declarations of their Master; from whom, we are infallibly certain, the sublimest part of his teaching was hid, until it was elucidated by events. And what but a blind attachment to hypothesis, can obviate the suspicion that the followers of John were in the same predicament, unless we are prepared to affirm, either that they were the apter scholars, or had the more skilful master? As this writer lately applied the ample volume of prophecy as a criterion to ascertain the minimum, or lowest measure of knowledge requisite to constitute a disciple of John, so he now with equal propriety puts together all the scattered sayings of that great Prophet, for the same purpose. If this be admitted in the case of the forerunner, it can with no consistency be withheld, in the instance of our Lord; and by measuring the actual attainments of the Apostles, by the extent of his instructions, we shall find them little less enlightened and intelligent after his resurrection, than they were before that event. The fact, however, is far otherwise.
It requires little penetration to perceive, that the true method of ascertaining (as far as it is practicable) the essential qualifications of John's candidates, is not so much to consult detached sentences recorded of his ministry, as the actual state of religious knowledge at that period, the known attainments of the Apostles, and above all, the language he is affirmed to have uttered, at the moment he was celebrating his peculiar rite.
Whatever ideas he himself might affix to the terms "Lamb of God," and "Son of God," which it may not be easy exactly to determine, we may be certain that his followers did not comprehend their true import, because the Apostles themselves were long after ignorant of the principal fact, or doctrine denoted by the first of these appellations; and, therefore, to introduce these passages, as this writer has done, with a design to insinuate that they conveyed to the mind precisely the same impression as at present, is to presume too much on the simplicity of the reader. He should have been aware, that few are so bereft of the power of recollection, as to be incapable of detecting such flimsy sophistry.
Aware that confidence is contagious, he uniformly abounds in that quality in exact proportion to the weakness of his proofs. Of this, the following passage exhibits an egregious example; after surveying his columns, with a complacency not unlike the Restorer of Babylon, he triumphantly exclaims, "Even prejudice itself might be expected to acknowledge, that so far from any material variation between John and the Apostles in introducing their respective candidates to baptism, they made a near approach to a syllabic agreement." (Plea for Prim. Com. p. 24.)
To say nothing at present of the name of Jesus, a point we shall have occasion to discuss hereafter, did John require of his candidates a profession of their belief in Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension? If he did, he was a superior teacher to his Master, and his disciples greater proficients than the Apostles; a proposition which, however "boldly it may appeal to our faith," it is hard to digest. If, on the contrary, he acknowledges that a belief of these facts was not required by John as the condition of baptism, while it unquestionably was of the apostolic converts, what becomes of his 'syllabic agreement?" and what temerity, not to say impiety, to represent these stupendous events, the death and resurrection of the Saviour, which involve the destinies of the human race, the incesssant theme of the apostolic ministry, the basis of hope, the pillar, not the miserable columns of a page, but the column which props and supports a sinking universe, an affair of syllables, so that whether they are omitted or included, there exists a syllabic agreement !
Justly apprehensive of fatiguing the attention of the reader, the author cannot prevail on himself to dismiss this branch of the subject without bestowing a word more on the fallacious medium of proof employed in this instance by the writer of the Plea. Prophecy, he informs us, as "boldly appealed to faith" as history; from which the only legitimate inference is, that the disciple of revelation is as much under obligation to give implicit credit to the Prophets as to the Evangelists. His inference, however, is, that the precise measure of information yielded by the historian, must of necessity be possessed by the student of prophecy, than which nothing is more absurd and untenable. To reason in this manner is, in the first place, to forget the prodigious disparity in point of perspicuity betwixt the respective sources of information; and secondly, in opposition to the decisive and repeated testimonies of inspiration, to presume that good men have uniformly exerted the ardor, impartiality, and diligence, in the pursuit of truth, to which it is justly entitled. Besides, when it is asserted that the prophetic page" as boldly appeals to faith as the details of evangelical history," an ambiguity lurks in the word appeal, as well suited to the purposes of sophistry, as it is unfavorable to the enunciation of truth. It may either mean that it demands the same credit with historical details, or that it imposes an obligation to believe the same facts, and to penetrate the same mysteries. In the former sense the assertion is true, but foreign to the purpose; in the latter it is palpably false; at once repugnant to the nature of things, as well as to the plainest fact. Many of the most important predictions were involved in a total obscurity; others were designed to excite a vague but elevated expectation, without ascertaining